Violating The Hippocratic Oath: Doctors’ Sexual Abuse Of Patients

Barring an existing intimate relationship between doctor and patient, such as a marriage or romantic partnership, there are no circumstances under which sexual relations between doctor and patient should occur. All doctors understand this and take an oath to uphold the utmost professional standards. It’s a practice that has been integral to the medical profession for centuries.

More than 2,000 years ago, when Hippocrates tendered the Hippocratic Oath, these words were included: “Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular sexual relations with both female and male persons…”

The oath, which doctors completing medical school still take today in various versions, states the ethical and moral obligations that doctors have to their patients. While the vast majority of the country’s more than 900,000 licensed physicians are caring and conscientious individuals who hold the oath as inviolate, there are a minority of doctors that violate the sacred pledge they have taken and violate the trust of their patients. Over the years, there have been thousands of reports of sexual misconduct by physicians. Most abuse cases, as many as 90 percent by some estimates, are believed to go unreported.

Sexual misconduct is always unethical and often criminal. It includes everything from inappropriate sexual comments and innuendo to unnecessary breast examinations to sexual touching, digital and penile penetration, and even forcible rape. It can happen in a doctor’s office, in an outpatient clinic or in a hospital. In whatever way it happens, sexual contact between doctor and patient should not happen. It does not only violate the Hippocratic Oath-most importantly, it violates individual patients and the trust they place their in doctor.

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